On Wednesday I commented on the Pacers signing of Al Harrington. Chad Ford at ESPN – in an Insider article – has argued that signing Harrington is one of the better moves any NBA team made this summer. Given Harrington’s productivity in his career, this seems a difficult position to defend.
Earlier I compared Harrington to Andrei Kirilenko, primarily because Harrington’s agent argued that his player was similar to the star forward for the Utah Jazz. Of course the Pacers were not choosing between Harrington and Kirilenko. The Pacers did employ Peja Stojakovic briefly last season and one might wonder how he compares to Harrington.
Clearly Harrington is younger and cheaper. The 29-year old Stojakovic signed for $62 million over five years, while Harrington will only cost $35.3 million across four seasons. For fans of the Pacers, though, it is production on the court that matters, not dollars on a paycheck.
And in terms of productivity, there is very little comparison. Let’s start with the raw stats. The table posted HERE lists a few stats for each player over the past five years. Highlighted in red is the key difference. Harrington is well below average in shooting efficiency. Stojakovic is well above average. Harrington is a better rebounder, but this difference is not enough to compensate for the loss in shooting efficiency.
This point can be seen clearly when we look at Win Score over the past five seasons. As noted HERE, over the past five seasons Stojakovic has been consistently the more productive player. Harrington has an average Win Score per-minute of 0.144, a bit below average for a small forward and well below average for a power forward. Stojakovic has an average Win Score per-minute of 0.216, which is well above average for a small forward.
Now Stojakovic did play poorly the first half of last season with the Kings. But his performance with the Pacers was consistent with his career average, suggesting whatever problems Stojakovic had in Sacramento were left in Sacramento.
Yes, Stojakovic is older. And yes, he is more expensive. In terms of wins, though, Stojakovic is clearly the better choice. Over the course of his career at small forward Stojakovic has produced more than sixty wins. Harrington, who teams play at both small and power forward, has produced less than ten victories in his career.
Given these differences, it is hard to see how the Pacers are better off with Harrington. Yes, they will be spending less money. One suspects, though, that if the Pacers do not win, their fans are also going to choose to spend less money on Pacer basketball.